The Electronic Components Industry Association hosted its second annual Executive Conference in Chicago earlier this week as Hurricane Sandy ravaged parts of the Northeast.
The storm hit just as executives were making their way to the InterContinental O’Hare in Chicago on Sunday, causing 30 attendees and two speakers to cancel out of the event. The conference proceeded despite the weather-related challenges, hosting close to 300 electronic component distributors, manufacturers and manufacturer representatives and featuring speakers from inside and outside the electronics channel.
“The electronics industry remains a very good place to be,” TTI, Inc.’s Michael Knight said in welcoming attendees Monday morning. He pointed to the prevailing economic uncertainty and current down cycle as short-term challenges in an otherwise robust long-term outlook, citing the increasing amount of electronic content in everything from automobiles to medical equipment as key reasons for the industry’s bright future.
Other attendees agreed, and said this year’s Executive Conference did a particularly good job of focusing on the positive.
“There was a time when the talk was about what will put you out of business,” said Paul Buckley, president of Chicago-based Newark element14. “This was much more upbeat. I think [ECIA] challenged the audience to think differently—to not focus on the gloom and doom.”
The conference’s top-rated speakers included Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity.com and current chairman of Kayak.com, and industry CEOs Rick Hamada, Avnet Inc., and Gordon Hunter, Littlefuse. Jones and Hamada homed in on the conference’s “innovation” theme while Hunter talked about the challenges and immense opportunities in the electronics channel.
A last minute pinch-hit from Avnet’s Al Maag was also well received. Maag was asked to step in with less than two hours’ notice for a speaker who couldn’t make it due to the storm; he talked about social media, marketing and the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to developing strategies that promote your brand. Maag is Avnet’s chief communications officer.
The association presented several awards during the event as well. Six members received Distinguished Service Awards, recognizing their years of service to the association: Jim Harper, Harper & Two; Paul Krystek, IBM; Robert Logan, Kruvand Associates; Dr. Laura Meade, Texas Christian University; Melanie Pizzey, TTI, Inc.; and Joe Walker, Phoenix Contact.
ECIA bestowed its highest honor, the Gail S. Carter Award, on Brian McNally, president of Arrow Electronics’ Global Components Specialty Businesses. The Gail S. Carter award recognizes an industry leader for his or her significant contributions to the industry and their active role in the association and civic affairs. McNally was honored for his service on the board of directors for the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NEDA) and his work to unite NEDA and the Electronic Components Association (ECA) into ECIA. McNally joined the NEDA board in 2005 and served as association president in 2010.
“Brian is a true leader and great friend of the association,” TTI’s Knight said in presenting the award. “He demonstrated a huge commitment to ECIA through his involvement while serving his assignment for Arrow in Europe. His European perspective added high value in helping form policy and activities with a global landscape in mind. It has been a privilege to work with him.”
ECIA was formed less than two years ago through the merger of NEDA and ECA. The new association collectively represents the interests of manufacturers, distributors and manufacturer representatives. ECIA will meet next in May for the annual Electronics Distribution Show (EDS), to be held May 6-9 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The association also sponsors CARTS International, a technical conference for the passive electronics industry, slated for March 25-28 in Houston.